Tag Archives: domestic violence

From preschool to healing

25 Apr

I find my self continuously analyzing myself  because I am currently enrolled in three psychology courses. During lectures I  diagnose my moods and my family members “disorders” … its kind of silly. In my developmental psych class i have been reading and reflecting on attachment. In the context of newborns and parents, attachment is important for the child’s positive development.  A new born begins to feel a sense of safety and assurance if the parents are consistently and continuously attentive to the baby’s wants and needs.  Such attentiveness does not spoil the child, rather it helps them trust the world they are growing up in. This positive reassurance transforms to a sense of security, self worth, and self esteem for the child.

In my case, it was kinda the opposite.  In my very early years, i was growing up with violence in the home. There was verbal and emotional abuse and probably some depression thrown in there. We moved homes a lot when i was a kid, and my fathers aggression and abuse was internalized. I feared him and had nightmares of him. I have learned that indeed my parents tried their best, they have their own traumas and they acted the only way they knew how.

I was confronted with isolation when I went to pre-school. I was deeply saddened and afraid when i was left alone at school. I was the kid that cried endlessly when getting dropped off. According to my mother and older sister… it went on for weeks. I also have memory of this. There was a huge window that faced the street and i would run to it after i was forced to stay. I would watch my mother get into her green car and drive away to work. My mom has told me how much it would break her heart to see me go through this pain.

Eventually i adapted to this thing called school. I learned to swing, tie my shoes, count apples, identify shapes and my pinkie… Children can surpass baby traumas, there is still an opportunity for resilience to develop. I spent most of my childhood alone when I was at school. I was a pretty independent child. I entertained myself and still played handball or foursquare. I just wasnt part of a group of friends. I didnt bother to make any friends. Maybe it was too much effort, maybe i was afraid of rejection. Maybe i accepted my isolation, but i didnt feel alone. I felt like a normal child… except I told other children to leave me alone. True story, i had a friend in high school tell me of her first impression of me. She came up to me while i was in line for foursquare.  She mentioned she was in my class and told me her name. Apparently i didn’t care, and i told her to leave me alone. That was in the 4th grade.

I did eventually make friends of course. Sometime around 6th grade i began to make friends. Today I have many beautiful friends in my life. In my journey called life, I have found different ways to heal from my past. Some of those ways have been through conversations with friends. Traditional ceremonies that have survived such as Temezcali/sweat lodge and Teepee ceremonies have been incredibly healing and powerful to my spirit and my heart. My ancestors and my willingness to be a better person have been my guide. I am so grateful for the communities that invite me to heal through meditation, counsel, art making, dancing…

A few months ago I was in my room cleaning and i heard a couple fighting outside my window. The guy was calling his gf a “hoe”. He was shaming her and making her feel worthless. He called her a bitch and a hoe and told her he was not ashamed to call her that. When i heard the verbal abuse i looked out the window. The couple was a high school boy and girl. She still had her backpack on and she was crying. He was pulling her hair and calling her names. I walked outside and tried to intervene. I was filled with anger, and i tried asking the girl if she needed any help. He didnt let me talk to her and told me to leave them alone, he didnt get into my business, so i had no right getting in their business. Apparently he was “old enough” to know what he was doing… Yes, he was old enough to be an abuser. It was that week that I began to train at Peace over Violence. An organization that provides services to victims of violence. I am now a volunteer as a Violent Prevention Specialist (still in practice) and had my first presentation at a middle school last week. I wrote down the address and took off to find the middle school.

In my presentation we were going to talk about teen dating violence and learn to identify the cycle of abuse. It was also important for me to talk about what healthy relationships look like, so I had an activity in mind for them. , and have activities that engaged a group of twenty 8th grade girls to have a conversation about what healthy relationships look like and how to identify teen dating violence.

The school was in Gardena, the town i went to school in when i wasnt moving around. When i arrived at the address, I couldnt believe my eyes and my gut. I parked in front of what use to be my old preschool. I starred at the building and the huge window was no longer there.  The swings were taken out. And a bunch of middle school kids were hanging out behind the school gate talking and playing around. My preschool was remodeled and turned into a charter middle school. It had only opened a few weeks prior to my arrival.

I acteen p&c wheelcepted the moment and went inside. I met about 20 girls who seemed shy at first. I asked them to write down words on a piece of paper identifying what they would want a healthy relationship to look like and they scribbled words like trust, open mindedness, and kindness. We had positives to work with, and then we identified power and control. We finished by writing down “the relationship bill of rights”. One of my favorite rights someone shared was, “I have the right to make mistakes and its ok”. 

I finished the presentation, walked out, got in my car, and drove away. I cried. I gave thanks. I felt blessed. It was magical to have the universe tell me i was exactly where i was suppose to be. A journey almost 3 decades long that took me in so many different directions and brought me to a place i had begun. A place where I replaced my trauma with a new memory for hope. I am thankful. And i pray. I pray for the power of young men and womyn to practive healthy, mature, beautiful ways of loving and living.

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Witness to a feminist movement in Guatemala

25 Oct

I made it! To Guatemala. The plane ride sucked. I left LAX at 2am and woke up from time to time on the plane. When the sunrise showed thru the window, it was absolutely beautiful. A thin orange and red glow outlined the top of mountains and the navy darkness covered the rest of the open sky. 

On Monday I went to check out my friend Kimberly Bautista’s film, Justice For My Sister. This film is about a womyn and her relentless efforts to fight impunity and convict the murderer of her sister. Even though her family is threatened, she continues to fight head on for her sister. In the struggle for her sister, she opens a fight larger than herself. It is a fight where a whole nation of womyn are seeking justice and an end to impunity. It was shown at a gathering of organizers preparing themselves to take on a nation wide campaign to help womyn against violence. My cousin, my mom and sister went with me. I’m so glad that they went. 

I had not seen the film in LA. But I am glad I saw it in Guatemala. The discussion after the film was so raw and truthful.   Every womyn that spoke yesterday has a personal story to share about how patriarchy and machismo has hurt them in their lives. One womyn shared how she hid her pregnancy until the day after she graduated from school. She was afraid her father would not let her finish her education. There is an ever growing urgency by womyn to demand an end to a culture that has allowed womyn to be mistreated, under-educated, raped, and killed. 

Violence against womyn happens at so many levels in Guatemala and around the world. But i sense a movement that is only growing bolder, stronger, and louder. This movement is telling boys and men to help womyn take care of the home. It is pleading with men to stop hitting their partners and instead learn to communicate and create harmony at home. It is telling men to take responsibility within their fatherhood. It’s telling society to respect single mothers. That a womyn’s body belongs her and not to a man or the state. This movement has recognized that their is war on womyn’s bodies and it needs to end. 

Silence is ending. Today i went to a womyn’s art festival, El Festival Ixchel. It is a 2 week long series of events organized by womyn. They have created spaces for womyn to showcase their art, sculpture, photography, graffiti, film, poetry, and music. Tonight i saw a series of short films made by Guatemalan womyn. Each film is dynamic, taking on multiple issues that affect womyn. One of my favorite short films was done by a collective of Indigenous womyn from Solola named Asociación Centro de mujeres comunicadora mayas “Nutzij”. You can check here and here to learn about them.

I am witnessing a feminist movement in my mother’s homeland. It is not a new movement, but it is colorful. It makes sense, Guatemala is very colorful! 

Cindi Santana and the Ovarian Psycos

14 Oct

Memorial for Cindi Santana @ Coyolxauqui Plaza | Oct. 12, 2011

The October Luna Ride:

And so it happened, the full moon showed up from the northeast and i left my house on my bike. I took the train to union station and biked to Hollenbeck Park, the meeting grounds for this month’s Luna Ride. The Luna Rides are called together by the lovely and beautiful Ovarian Psycos, aka the Ovas! Representing Womyn’s independence, sacredness and wildness at full speed, i joined these ladies to ride with the warm October wind.

As we left the park i counted 28 of us and took up a whole car lane. With the full moon on our east side in full bloom, i thought to myself, “we exchanged brooms for bikes but not our spirits”. Our bike route that night would take us to the Moon Goddess, Coyolxauqui, literally. A  replica of the Moon Goddess Monument that was excavated from Templo Mayor, sits in City Terrace, East LA. Here we would gather for ceremony to honor and remember Cindi Santana and the victims/survivors of domestic violence. Cindi Santana lived to be 17years old, a senior high school student in South Gate, CA that was beaten and stabbed by her ex-boyfriend. Youth dating violence is not new, its older than the time my mother was first hit by her partner 40 years ago. And it is more wide-spread than we could ever imagine:  “One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.” (1)

Domestic violence is a truth that has lingered in my life since before me (my gramma ancestors survived rape and pillage from Europeans, the church, and eventually her partners). When i was in the womb i was already aware of domestic violence, as my mom survived, so did I… Along with 1 out of every 4 womyn. (2)

As we remembered Cindi, we told stories to heal ourselves from pasts that sometimes we bury in shame. Many prayers  and offerings were shared during our ceremony. I want to re-write some of those prayers and share them with you: 

Prayer for children who are surviving domestic violence with their mothers

Prayers for sisters, cousins, mothers, and friends who have survived domestic violence.

Prayers for sisters, cousins, mothers, and friends who have been murdered by their partner. 

Prayer for the mother of Cindi Santana

Prayer for men

Prayer for womyn to speak up if they are in a violent relationship.

Prayer for womyn to walk away from violent relationships.

Prayer for womyn’s eyes to see their own worth and value.

Prayer for womyn’s heart, womb, and mind. 

I wouldn’t usually share sacred prayers said in ceremony, but bc we need to talk about violence in our homes and in our relationships, i have to let people know why we do what we do. I have to share why as a womyn, wefind ourselves in ancient ceremonies as helicopters, cars, and flashing lights fill our urban lifetime. Our realities may not always be understood, but its time for a change in how we love, respect, and honor our womb and our womyn. If your partner is a womyn, take the time to reflect in the ways you love and honor her. And if you dont do this to the best of your ability, humble yourself to change, learn from her, and be a better person. 

If you’re a womyn who finds herself in an fucked up, whack ass, messed up, fearful, emotionally tolling, stressful, worry-some, and/or trapped situation, speak up. Get help. There is help. Start with asking your mom, she knows more than anyone about survivorship. Tell a sister, a friend, a cousin. Call a toll-free number. Listen to your spirit and fight for your freedom. We have to be free! We have to! 

Infinite Fuerza by Ajtun, 2008 (c)

(1) Information found at LoveisRespect.Org 

(2) Information found at Domestic Violence Resource Center